After defeating John Cena and Ryback at Survivor Series, CM Punk's impressive WWE championship reign ballooned to one year in length. Despite the fact that such things in professional wrestling are predetermined, it's tough not to be impressed with what Punk has accomplished over the past 365-plus days.
Many fans thought that the days of long title reigns had come to an end, but Punk's current run has revived an ideal that was once the norm in wrestling. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, it was incredibly rare for the WWE's top title to change hands. During the mid-1990s and the Attitude Era in particular, however, it was almost as if the WWE championship was involved in a game of hot potato.
It was uncommon for a title run to last a few weeks or even a few days, and while that didn't seem like a big deal because of the quality of the writing and entertainment, it did cause the WWE championship to lose some of its value. Perhaps the WWE hasn't been as good in terms of the overall product lately, but the ideal of reestablishing the WWE championship's prestige is inherently right.
Not since John Cena's 380-day title run from late 2006 to late 2007 has a superstar approached this type of dominance. There doesn't appear to be an immediate end in sight for Punk, either. Provided he is able to beat Ryback as expected at TLC, his time with the WWE championship will have lasted well over 400 days when he takes on The Rock at the Royal Rumble.
That would put him in rarefied air in terms of WWE championship reigns. He would be behind only Bruno Sammartino (twice), Bob Backlund, Hulk Hogan and Pedro Morales. That would also mean that his run with the title would be the longest since Hogan dropped the title controversially to Andre the Giant in 1988.
Most fans figured those types of runs with the WWE championship were a thing of the past, but Punk has renewed faith in many respects. Perhaps the most incredible thing about Punk's success is that he has done it despite being the unquestioned No. 2 guy behind Cena. Everyone else ahead of him in terms of length of reign was the face of the company at the time, so Punk's run is special in that regard.
Also, a good chunk of Punk's dynasty has come with him as a heel. Heel title runs are generally much shorter than those by faces, but by the time Punk's comes to an end, it could very well make up half or even more than half his time as champion. Whether you love him or hate him, there is little doubt that Punk has become a trailblazer for the current era of wrestling.
Professional wrestling is cyclical in a lot of ways. The programming always used to be very kid-friendly, but that ultimately led to the Attitude Era and everything has now come full circle. The same can be said for title reigns. They were almost always lengthy when it came to faces holding the title, but that changed during the Attitude Era. Now that the product is more similar to what we saw in the 1980s, though, long title reigns are suddenly en vogue again.
Every era of wrestling has had its strengths and weaknesses, and the value of the WWE championship is something that fans have wanted to see restored for a very long time. Some of the more impatient fans have grown tired of Punk's reign and are desperate for him to drop the belt, but what Punk is doing for the title right now is only going to bode well for it in the future.
It wasn't long ago that somebody winning the WWE championship was a pretty ho-hum thing, but when it doesn't change hands for well over a year, it suddenly becomes a major accomplishment to win it. Hopefully that continues to be the case moving forward as it makes the main-event feuds much more compelling than they would be otherwise.
Another thing that Punk's year-long title reign does is cement him as a main attraction for the remainder of his career. Every other wrestler with a comparable title run is considered to be among the best ever, so Punk has to be included in that category now. If the WWE didn't feel similarly, there is no way that Punk would still be the titleholder, so he is essentially entrenched at this point.
Punk isn't going to catch Sammartino as he promised to do, since fans are too impatient to sit through a 2,000-day title reign, but what he has done already is nothing short of impressive. This type of run was unthinkable just a few years ago, but hopefully Punk has ushered in a new era as far as the WWE's top title is concerned.